UK firms most confident about recruiting in 2004 since 1999

Last year saw the largest annual increase in recruitment activity since 1999, according to the Recruitment Confidence Index (RCI).

The RCI tracks recruitment intentions among UK businesses. If the index is more than 100 then that implies an increase in recruitment activity.

The average RCI figure for 2004 was 136, compared with 125 for 2003 and an average of 126 for the five years from 1999-2004, reflecting the continuing rise in the numbers working in the UK.

But there has been no equivalent rise in general business confidence, which has collapsed over the past five years.

At the beginning of 2000, 55% of employers were optimistic about the future. By the summer of 2003 this had slumped to just 21% and has remained at around that level despite rising recruitment activity.

The RCI quarterly trends survey is published by Cranfield School of Management and the Daily Telegraph in association with Personnel Today.

Shaun Tyson, professor of human resource management at Cranfield School of Management, said: “After the 9/11 US terror attacks people talked about a potential recession in the UK as well as the US, but it simply did not happened. We seem to have left boom and bust behind and people cannot believe this; they still think bust is around the corner.”

Stephanie Richards, recruitment research manager at the Daily Telegraph, said the gap between recruitment confidence and general business confidence made it hard to predict the impact of a rise in recruitment activity over the coming 12 months.

She said: “Feedback from recruiters and clients is that the market is picking up, but there is still an overwhelming feeling of caution out there and this is holding the market back. Managers are unwilling to take risks with their recruitment and are keeping a tight hold on the purse strings.”

Other findings:

  • Engineering jobs have remained the hardest to fill. While skills shortages in other functions have eased slightly over the past three years, two out of three engineering employers still expect problems filling these jobs.

  • In 2000 only 21% of employers used their corporate website as a means of attracting candidates, but by last year that figure had doubled to 40%

  • The number of employers using commercial job boards has risen from 15% in 2000 to 23% overall last year.

  • Back in 2000 more than two in three IT recruiters were predicting problems recruiting IT skills. By 2003 this had halved. Currently one in three IT employers (35%) is predicting problems finding good IT skills over the next six months.

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